Return to Transcripts main page

CNN NEWSROOM

Operation Begins to Extract Thai Football Team; U.S.-North Korea Relations; U.S. Immigration Debate; Catastrophic Rainfall, Historic Flooding in Japan; California Wildfires; World Cup 2018. Aired 5-6a ET

Aired July 8, 2018 - 05:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[05:00:00]

(MUSIC PLAYING)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): This is CNN breaking news

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): At 5:00 am on the U.S. East Coast following the breaking news out of Thailand, the rescue effort underway to extract, to rescue 12 boys and their coach from a cave, trapped there for two weeks now.

I'm George Howell at CNN World Headquarters in Atlanta. Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world this hour.

A Thai governor calls it D-Day. He announced just hours ago this high-risk operation to rescue this group of 12 young boys and their coach. It is underway as we speak. A group of Thai and international divers started moving into this cave system several hours ago; their hopes, to pull these boys out safely.

The rescue may take hours; it could even take days. You see the images of what they're up against, really, really rugged terrain, wet conditions and technical dives. Also weather. That's a big factor, as monsoon clouds continue to move in.

Let's get the very latest live in Northern Thailand. Our David McKenzie is near the scene and has been following the story.

David, last hour the rains were coming down pretty hard.

Has the rain subsided a bit?

And certainly, this window of time, it's dwindling for the weather to cooperate?

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, George. I was just speaking to a specialist diver, who is involved in the support of this whole operation. And he said the weather is the major factor at this point.

I put the question to him, which may be a bit of a tough question, but I did say, did they wait too late? He said, no, he doesn't believe so. They had to get everything in place to make sure they had the best possible chance of getting these boys out. And the way the rains work here, of course, it's a monsoon kind of scenario. You'll have a big dump of rain but it will be patchy.

And that mountain behind me that you see is where that cave system is. There was a big dump the water down directly on the catchment area. And that could mean that the water will be flowing into that cavern system quite dramatically, though they are pumping out water as fast as they can.

It presents a real danger to the teams and to the boys should that water start flowing back in. That will mean they may have to be flexible in their plans. But at this stage, the way it's going to work is, that as we speak right now, the teams will be trying to get those boys out, one by one, probably manhandling them through those very narrow passages with full-face masks, out toward chamber three, where they'll then be handed over to another team that will carry the boys and then their coach on stretchers to a waiting ambulance.

And we believe, in fact, that the ambulance will pass by where I'm standing, possibly in a few hours' time, if all goes well, to an area hospital -- George.

HOWELL: David, as the world watches this story, watches your reporting, obviously, we all want to remain very optimistic, hopeful, you know, that these crews will have their very best work out there, the best luck, the best conditions.

But we have to keep had mind the fact that a former Thai Navy SEAL lost his life just days ago. This is a person who had the technical expertise, who had the know-how dealing with these very dangerous dives. It certainly underscores the complexity of what they're up against.

MCKENZIE: Well, that's right. That Israeli diver that I just spoke to -- and we'll be bringing that interview to you soon -- he really said it was that death that hit them all hard, of how difficult this kind of diving is.

And I asked him, you know, is this, the teams assembled here, does it impress him?

He said this is, as he put it, the best of the best, the world's first-class divers and cave specialists here, to try to get these boys out. You think that they were found on that beach or beachhead, in a way, deep inside that cavern around 16 days ago.

That in and of itself was surprising to many, that they lived to that point. Well, they've lived on; they've survived and they've had a global effort, it seems, to get them out. The next few hours, the next day, in fact, into tomorrow, will be absolutely crucial whether they can get these boys out safely and to their family -- George.

HOWELL: The best of the best, dealing with very different conditions, and children, David, some of whom cannot swim, some of whom may be weak from two weeks now in this cave system, it is a lot to sort out, of course.

David McKenzie, we will all be in touch with you as you learn more from your sources there on the ground.

Let's put all of this into context now, what's happening, with Butch Hendrick. Butch, a rescue diver and the president and founder of Lifeguard Systems, live this hour from Scarsdale, New York.

Thank you so much --

[05:05:00]

HOWELL: -- for your time and your perspective on what we're watching here. I want you to help our viewers understand the danger here, because it's important to know what these crews are up against, the danger for the children, getting out of this system safely, the danger to the rescuers, who are -- seriously, they're putting their lives on the line to make this happen.

BUTCH HENDRICK, LIFEGUARD SYSTEMS: (INAUDIBLE) first we had the problem of the narrow passageways, obviously, and no visibility. So just that in itself becomes an extremely difficult -- cave diving is in itself one of the most dangerous things we can do, even in the sport arena. Very high-end expert cave divers pass away in caves quite often.

Here we have a current, if you will, like a flood. Water is flowing into the cavern and heading toward where the boys are. So they're trying to get them back out. We're basically fighting a flood, as if we were working in an environment, where the force is so great that they're going to have to be constantly trying to figure out how to make their bodies function through it and continue to breathe.

HOWELL: Butch, you know, we've put a great deal of focus on getting an understanding of this water pumping system. So they've pumped out a substantial amount of water in the past several days.

How important will that be with regard to getting these children out safely?

Will it make it a little easier for them?

A second part of this question: we've seen the weather out there with David McKenzie.

The rains will make that worse, yes?

HENDRICK: Right now the rains, obviously, are coming in and they're moving more water back into the caverns and into the cave. So the flow is moving very quickly. And when you think of flow, if it was one knot of moving water, is 100 foot per minute.

By the time we start to reach (INAUDIBLE) 2 knots, which is pretty close to where they are already and possibly even greater, we're at the speed of a high school swimmer, 200 foot per minute (INAUDIBLE).

So trying to pull themselves back along the lines and be able to carry the boys with them is an enormous effort. (INAUDIBLE) I'm sure that they have planned this and worked it out until the last moment they knew exactly what they were doing and when their time window was going to have to happen.

HOWELL: Let's focus on the positives here. I mean, David McKenzie described these as the best of the best, these rescuers. They have drilled, they have practiced, they have the expertise, they have the focus and determination.

The weather is a concern. Oxygen levels are concerning as well.

So how will they do this?

In the timetable to get these children and coach out, do you suspect it will be a matter of days?

Will there be times to rest and continue pushing forward?

How will it work?

HENDRICK: Well, first of all, it's a five-hour trip normally back and forth in this cavern. So they're looking at six hours, round numbers, per boy. I can only imagine that they can't bring more than one at a time at least three-quarters of the way. Most likely they're taking from start to finish they have a 5.5-6-hour window. I don't want a chance where they'll get jammed up in between in the middle of the cavern, the caves. Now can't move the other boy. So they'll be taking them to a certain spot from before they start to get the next person moving.

As they do that, we're looking at many, many hours. And with the rain coming, I'm sure that they have figured out exactly how far they're going to travel before the next individual comes.

HOWELL: Butch, we'll, of course, just have to hope that they have the best of luck, that their skill, you know, and their abilities come together as they are planning and we will, of course, we'll in touch with you as we get more details about how this rescue operation is taking place. Thank you for your time today.

HENDRICK: Thank you.

(WEATHER REPORT)

[05:10:00]

HOWELL: And we'll keep you up to date on all of the things happening out of Thailand. Our crews on the ground, telling us about the weather, about the rescue operation and the latest information on when these boys will be pulled out of the cave system.

Also ahead, why North Korea is attacking the United States' top diplomat. Now the top diplomat is pushing back. Stay with us. (MUSIC PLAYING)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(MUSIC PLAYING)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE POMPEO, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: I'm counting on Chairman Kim to be determined to follow through on the commitment that he made. And so, if those requests were gangster-like, they are -- the world is a gangster because there was a unanimous decision at the U.N. Security Council about what needs to be achieved.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: Mike Pompeo there, the U.S. secretary of state, pushing back on North Korea, referring to the U.S. mindset as gangster-like. That after his two-day talks with the North Korean officials about the tricky issue of denuclearization. Pompeo called those talks productive, that's what he called them, saying progress was made.

[05:15:00]

HOWELL: North Korea, though, different story. They called them regrettable and worrisome. Speaking to reporters in Tokyo, Pompeo stressed that sanctions against North Korea would not be lifted until total denuclearization is achieved. Our Andrew Stevens is following it all live in Seoul, South Korea.

And, Andrew, denuclearization is the key here. But sanctions aren't going anywhere, according to the secretary of state.

ANDREW STEVENS, CNN ASIA PACIFIC EDITOR: That's absolutely right, George. You hit the nail on the head there. This gangster-like mentality that the North is accusing the U.S. of revolves around the fact that it says the U.S. is operating on a unilateral basis. It's making a lot of demands and it's not giving away any concessions.

What the North Koreans say is the best process for what is a simultaneous step-by-step process, where one gives and the responds. But the North Koreans obviously want that to include sanctions. The sanctions are biting, we know that. It's seen as one of the reasons they wanted to come to the negotiating table in the first place.

Mike Pompeo making it very clear there's going to be no movement on sanctions until there is full verification and full denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula.

Interestingly, Mike Pompeo making those comments in Japan, even though the North Korea is talking about unilateralism by the U.S., they're working very closely with their allies on this, the Japanese and the South Koreans. Just listen to what Mike Pompeo had to say about that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE POMPEO, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: We had good faith, productive conversations, which will continue in the days and weeks ahead.

In the meantime, sanctions remain in place. And we will continue to enforce them with great vigor.

During the visit, we intended to build upon the agreements made by President Trump and Chairman Kim and we made progress. But first, let me make clear, North Korea reaffirmed its commitment to complete denuclearization. We had detailed and substantive discussions about the next steps toward a fully verified and complete denuclearization.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEVENS: Apologies there; that was not the clip I wanted to show you. But basically Mike Pompeo says that they're working very closely with South Korea and Japan on this. And both the Japanese and the South Koreans affirming the U.S. stand on there is no possibility of moving the sanctions. That maximum pressure stays on North Korea -- George.

HOWELL: Andrew Stevens, live for us in Seoul, South Korea. Thank you for the reporting.

The Trump administration also scrambling to meet court-ordered deadlines to reunite children who were separated from their parents at the U.S. border with Mexico by the administration's own policy.

The government has now until Tuesday to reunite children under the age of 5 years old with their parents, also until July 26th to reunite all other children. But officials say that process may take longer and we're now seeing the proof of that.

One Guatemalan woman, who was released from a detention center in Texas, visited her 10-year-old son at his facility for about an hour. And despite the government having both their documentation and fingerprints, she said it still could take about a month to get him back.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Speaking Spanish).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) month?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Si.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Speaking Spanish).

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: And as you recall, we've heard the wailing of children, screaming for their mothers and fathers, and certainly the pain felt mutually by those mothers and fathers. The topic of North Korea and immigration, those just a few of the priorities that this -- that round out the Trump administration's agenda. There are also new developments in the Russia probe. President Trump's legal team is setting new conditions for a possible interview to take place with the special counsel, Robert Mueller. Our Boris Sanchez is traveling with the president and filed this report for us.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The president's attorney, Rudy Giuliani, telling "The New York Times" that he is demanding that Robert Mueller, the special counsel, prove to the president's legal team that Donald Trump did something illegal in order to interview the president.

Further, Giuliani stipulating that Mueller must prove that the only way to get --

[05:20:00]

SANCHEZ: -- information to conclude his investigation is by interviewing the president. He's also asking Robert Mueller to prove that he has jurisdiction from the Department of Justice to investigate possible obstruction of justice.

Here is how Rudy Giuliani expressed that to "The New York Times."

He said, quote, "If they can come to us and show us the basis and that it's legitimate and that they have uncovered something, we can go from there and assess their objectivity."

Now the White House appears to be gearing up for a legal battle because Rudy Giuliani also told "The New York Times" that he does not expect Robert Mueller to comply with those demands for an interview with the president.

So if Robert Mueller then puts out a subpoena trying to compel the president to testify, Giuliani has previously said that he would challenge it, meaning that this could wind up in court.

So it appears that the White House would prefer to start a legal battle than have the president testify before Robert Mueller, the special counsel. Notably, Giuliani also told "The New York Times" that this is all about swaying public opinion and keeping the president from getting impeached.

The belief is that the White House is succeeding in its attacks on the special counsel and swaying public opinion in their direction. They hope that it can keep Republicans holding on to the House after the midterm elections and prevent the president from getting impeached by Democrats -- Boris Sanchez, CNN, traveling with the president near Bedminster, New Jersey.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOWELL: Boris Sanchez with the reporting and the facts, thank you. Let's square the circle now and get some context with Scott Lucas. Scott a professor of international politics at the University of Birmingham and the founder of "EA WorldView," live this hour in Birmingham, England.

A pleasure to have you on the show, Scott. Let's start with what we heard from Boris Sanchez, the reporting.

The president's attorney in these new conditions that they're trying to set for Mr. Trump to agree for a meeting with the special counsel, Robert Mueller, do you see Mueller agreeing to conditions like these?

SCOTT LUCAS, UNIVERSITY OF BIRMINGHAM: No, absolutely not. But that's not the point. Rudy Giuliani gave the game away when he said, look, what we're trying to do is sway public opinion; in other words, try to convince the public there's no need for an investigation or that an investigation is politically motivated, biased against Trump.

And that's like new verse, same song, because the administration has been trying that for months with, for example, the Nunes memo, that sort of cobbled-together memo that tried to discredit the FBI; with Trump's tweets, who have attacked the "witch hunt," that insisted on no collusion.

The twist here is that what Giuliani is saying, what the president's lawyers are saying, is look, you show us all the evidence you have. You show us everything that's out there and then maybe we'll let Trump speak to you.

Guess what?

In a political or legal process, you don't let a potential defendant see all the evidence before you put them into the courtroom. So that's the game that's being played here. Mueller, who does not go public with this, who is the quiet man, they'll just keep pursuing the investigation and try to let the politics wash over.

HOWELL: All right, Scott, I want to pivot now to the drama playing out on the U.S. border with Mexico. The government's inability to meet deadlines reuniting these families that it separated at the U.S. border.

Tuesday marks another important deadline to reunite migrant parents with kids under the age of 5 years old.

We still don't have specific numbers, Scott, either, of how many families we're talking about. We should have specific numbers; I mean, it seems pretty straightforward. I don't know why we keep getting this some 3,000 number. It's kind of ridiculous.

But I want to get a sense, do you think there will some transparency moving forward?

Is there a feeling that the process will be more efficient this week?

LUCAS: I don't know, how do you repair a catastrophe, George?

Here's a couple numbers we got on Friday from the Department of Health and Human Services and that is there are 103 children who were taken from their parents and detained in what are called, quote, "tender care shelters."

Of those 103 who are definitely under 5 years old and who should be reunited with parents by Tuesday, 19 cannot be matched up. So there's no way to meet the deadline in those 19 cases.

In other case of children, some of them under 5, some of them over 5, at least 19 parents have been deported. So there's no way you can reunite them because the parents are in one country, the children are in another.

Whatever you think of the policy, the zero tolerance policy, the lack of effective records, the complete just chaos of suddenly ripping these children away, putting them into these centers, with parents thousands of miles away, it built up for this.

And the courts will keep saying, you have to meet the deadline.

And guess what?

I predict that not only on this Tuesday but the week after that and the week after that, governmental officials will say well, we can't, we just aren't able to.

HOWELL: I want to talk about what will be a very important victory for the U.S. president, picking the next Supreme Court justice. The vice president met with three of the strongest contenders. The common --

[05:25:00]

HOWELL: -- denominator here, all very conservative.

Given what we know about these candidates, where does it put issue like abortion, like LGBT rights, where do those issues stand?

LUCAS: Puts it right in the firing line, George. I mean, here you have Trump supposedly has it narrowed down to three candidates or four. Let's name those three candidates. Conservative, really conservative and extremely conservative.

We know that, for example, Raymond Kethledge, who I think may be emerging as the top candidate, because he's backed by Mitch McConnell, the Senate leader, as well as the White House, we know that Raymond Kethledge is very, very much a social conservative and will bring issues not only about abortion but also gun control and rolling back state gun control before the court.

We know that Amy Barrett, who has been named as one of the White House's possible favorites, is very, very extremely conservative and that there are questions even about whether she puts religious views before the Constitution and before legal opinion.

We know that Thomas Hardiman, another name that's come out in the last 48 hours, he wants to roll back gun control.

So, you know, whoever comes forth, you know that they are going to be very much trying to move the Supreme Court much more to the Right than even it has been in the past year.

Question: will the Democrats allow that process to proceed before November?

Or, just as the Republicans did in 2016, will they draw this out until after the elections, because if the Democrats win a majority then, the whole question about conservatives for Supreme Court justice is back up in the air for confirmation hearings.

HOWELL: Scott Lucas, thank you so much for your time and perspective.

LUCAS: Thank you.

HOWELL: We return, of course, to what's happening in Thailand. Our crew's there on the ground to bring you the very latest as rescue efforts are underway to save this youth football team, soccer team that's trapped in a cave system.

Also scenes of devastation. Look at what's happening there in Japan, as waters continue to rise. We find out what the government says about trying to get people to safer ground. Stay with us.

(MUSIC PLAYING)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[05:30:00]

(MUSIC PLAYING)

HOWELL: Live coast to coast across the United States and to our viewers around the world this hour you're watching CNN NEWSROOM. Thank you so much for being with us. I'm George Howell with the headlines our teams are following for you this hour.

(HEADLINES)

HOWELL: We're also following the breaking news in Thailand, where a risky rescue operation is underway, again, trying to extract 12 boys and their soccer coach, their football coach, from a cave.

Divers will escort them through a flooded series of passageways until they are finally put on stretchers and brought out of the darkness.

CNN has witnessed beds being prepared at a local hospital, preparing for them to be pulled out of there. We know international divers and Thailand's elite Navy, the Navy SEALs, are taking part in this rescue.

The SEALs earlier posted this powerful photo of them, gripping each other's wrists. The caption says that they are ready to bring the football team home. Let's go live near the scene. CNN's David McKenzie is following the story.

David, thank goodness it looks like the weather has agreed, you know, to cooperate, not raining as heavily as we saw last hour with you. Certainly helpful to the teams doing this very difficult and dangerous work.

MCKENZIE: That's right, George. If the rain holds off, that could give them a better chance of getting those boys out. And in all the focus on these international teams trying to get them out, we sometimes lose sight of the fact that these are individual people with families and dreams and hopes, 11 years old to 16 years old.

I want to talk about one boy, Prajak Sukham (ph). He's 14 years old. He is in that cave with that team, one of the soccer team. His auntie found out that he was being rescued or possibly rescued on social media, possibly like many of our viewers.

And his birthday was also, as well as two other of the boys, he had his birthday while he was in that cave. And I want you to listen to some emotional comments from his aunt and his grandmother, who are watching this all unfold, like many people here in these communities.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): It's like I'm counting every second. I want to see his face. I want to see how he gets out, how they get him out. I'm so happy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Grandma loves you the most in the whole world. I miss you dearly. I think every country, everyone helps the kids to get out. It's like a miracle.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MCKENZIE: Well, there is a sense that they're a little bit helpless, the parents of young Prajak (ph) are obviously in the mountains behind me, on the mountainside behind me, waiting desperately to hope that their son comes out and can be reunited with his family.

And, George, this is an extraordinary attempt by international divers from the around the world. I spoke to an Israeli diver, who is playing a supporting role here in this operation, Raphael Aroush. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCKENZIE: Raphael, what worries you right now?

[05:35:00]

MCKENZIE: Because the weather seems to be closing in.

Is that a factor?

RAPHAEL AROUSH, ISRAELI DIVER: Oh, it's a great factor and it's actually really scary. And I hope, really, really hope that the weather continues like that. A lot of water will drain right away into the cave with the limestone. And there are so many springs around the cave as well, with water draining at all times through the cave and can flood the cave and it will destroy the whole operation, the mission. MCKENZIE: So speed now is important?

AROUSH: Speed is very, very important. And that might be a crucial changes in the rescue operation and somebody will need to make decision to maybe bring more of them out today. (INAUDIBLE).

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MCKENZIE: So that's one assessment from one of the specialists in this region, George, they're all working together in the coming hours; we expect hopefully an ambulance to pass by the spot where I'm standing towards that hospital that you mentioned, where they will be waiting to tend to the boys -- George.

HOWELL: You're on the scene following this story with great detail, David, thank you for the reporting and we will keep in touch with you and your team on the ground there.

David touched on this but there really are two stories at play here, divers working to reach these children and their coach and the story of their families, left to wait and, quite honestly, left to worry.

As you can imagine, it is an excruciating time of great uncertainty for these parents. The father of the youngest boy in the cave is remaining patient, remaining hopeful. And he's telling us about his son in this exclusive interview. Our Matt Rivers tells the story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Fifteen days after he first disappeared, Chanin's bedroom hasn't changed. Bed unmade, a typical young kid's room. His father, Tanawat, wants it to be like that for when the 11-year old makes it out of the cave.

TANAWAT VIBOONRUNGRUANG, CHANIN'S FATHER (through translator): He's been playing football since he was young. He started it just at age 8 or 9. He wants to be a professional football player.

RIVERS (voice-over): On June 23rd, he told his mom he was going to football practice. The next time she saw his newly gaunt face was in this video, taken shortly after the team was discovered on July 2nd, nine days after they disappeared.

No phone lines could be established, so the parents wrote letters to their kids. And their kids wrote back. Chanin, the youngest one inside, showed bravery beyond his years.

VIBOONRUNGRUANG (through translator): He said he is fine there, not to be so worried about him.

RIVERS (voice-over): The rescue operation is now underway and all Chanin's parents and the others can do is wait and hope for the best. The children's young lives in the hands of an international team of divers, tasked with carrying out a rescue the world is watching.

VIBOONRUNGRUANG (through translator): I know they work so hard and do their best trying to take the children and coach out.

RIVERS (voice-over): Before the operation began, we asked Tanawat what he would say to his son, still sitting on a small piece of land hundreds of feet below the surface.

VIBOONRUNGRUANG (through translator): I will tell him that I am worried. I want him to be healthy, to get enough strength to dive out safely.

RIVERS (voice-over): Now Chanin has that chance. In his letter to his parents, he wrote that he'd like his uncle to take him for fried chicken as soon as he gets out. His dad, looking at his son's picture, told us, "No problem, whatever he wants. Just make it out OK" -- Matt Rivers, CNN, in Chiang Rai, Thailand.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOWELL: Matt, thank you for the report.

Rescue workers in Japan are having a great deal of difficulty reaching people trapped by sweeping floodwaters. We'll have the latest on the extreme weather condition playing out there.

Also, the U.S. state of California again under threats of wildfire. But this time, a heat wave, it's making the fires even more dangerous. Stay with us.

(MUSIC PLAYING)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[05:40:00]

(MUSIC PLAYING)

HOWELL: Just take a look at the situation in Japan. Authorities there calling this a disaster of historic proportions. Floodwaters that have swamped roads, that have triggered landslides and have destroyed hundreds of homes.

We understand at least 57 people have died so far, many more are missing and many more are injured. Rescue workers are struggling to help residents trapped by the flooding and forecasts show that more rain is on the way.

The government urging millions of people to evacuate and to get to safer ground. Let's bring in journalist Kaori Enjoji, live in our Tokyo bureau this hour.

Kaori, are people heeding the warning?

Are they following the advice of officials and getting to safer ground?

KAORI ENJOJI, JOURNALIST: They are; at least those who can still move out of a very harrowing situation in large parts of the country, not only in southwestern Japan but in the central areas as well, in tourist areas like Hiroshima and also Kyoto, where days of torrential rain triggered flooding and mudslides.

And you see whole communities being swallowed by muddy water. And although some of the special warnings that were put in place today, a warning of further rainfall have been lifted, that doesn't mean, according to the weather agency, that all is good because, the land is so vulnerable in some of these areas, even a small amount of rain could trigger another mudslide.

The death toll continues to mount throughout the day. There are many more missing and there are some areas, remote areas, that have limited access and the rescue workers have not been able to reach some of these areas.

In fact, the government has sent out about 56,000 troops, it says, from the self-defense forces which is basically the Japanese military. And they're using helicopters, in some cases boats and rafts, to try and get people to dry ground.

But you're seeing very, very harrowing pictures of people on roofs, hospitals that have been swallowed in by water, with people trying to seek higher ground. And so this has been a very difficult day for many citizens across Japan, as they watch these scenes unfold.

And it's getting dark here in Japan. That always compounds the rescue efforts here. We had a very similar situation about a year ago, when dozens of people died in torrential rains.

But this time is very different because it's affecting a much larger proportion of the country. And the weather agency says this was just an abnormal situation, where they had rainfall in some --

[05:45:00]

ENJOJI: -- areas, pockets of where they would get rainfall, maybe three times as much the monthly average in a span of, say, 24 to 48 hours. And they're worried about another typhoon, Typhoon Maria, I believe it's being called, the eighth typhoon, closing in on Japan as well.

So I think, as the hours progress, people are concerned about the safety of those still remaining in their homes and also at the evacuation of the shelters as well. Tens of thousands are heeding that request to seek shelter.

But a lot of the transportation is being closed off. Highways are closed off. You're seeing pictures of traffic jams on highways as well, as normal people try to get out of some of these areas.

Train service, including the bullet trains, the so-called Shinkansen, has been halted in some areas all day as well. So it's going to be very difficult to get food and water and other basic necessities to some of these evacuation shelters at a time of intense heat here in Japan as well -- George. HOWELL: That affecting the Shinkansen (ph), certainly very important to the transportation, getting around. So, of course, this very serious situation. Journalist Kaori Enjoji, thank you for the reporting and we'll keep in touch with you.

Let's go to now Kyoto. We want to bring in Chad Porter by phone, Chad in a city that's been swamped by these heavy rains, joining now live on the phone.

Our journalist just set up the reporting, the details of what's happening. But on the ground where you are, tell us what you're seeing and what's happening right now.

CHAD PORTER, JOURNALIST: So basically it's kind of evened up since the past three days. We're finally having some clear skies. But for the past three days, it went from a light shower to just constant heavy rain, to the point where a river called Kamogawa, it went from a mere few inches to feet and taking up entire walking areas, to the point where no one could get across.

And trains had to stop because it's causing all kind of malfunctions for all three different lines heading from Kyoto to Osaka. It's kind of crazy.

HOWELL: Chad, this has been described as a historic rain event.

Have you seen anything like this in recent times?

PORTER: No. This is all very new to me. I even had a discussion with some locals around a year ago, talking about, has the river ever gotten to a point where it's kind of, you know, caused any damage to the city?

And they said, no, we've never seen that before. So here we are a year later and it's happening.

HOWELL: We've talked about residents trapped and people missing. Our journalist just talked about the situation with the Shinkansen, which is certainly important for transportation and travel. And these roads that have crumbled and are destroyed.

What does that mean for people getting around, given the weather challenges, the floodwater?

PORTER: Basically people are stuck. I even had a friend, who was on the bullet train, heading from Tokyo to Osaka. He was stuck in a prefecture a couple miles away. And he was stuck there for a solid three hours because they just couldn't move anyone.

So everyone's just stuck. They can't go to work, they can't go to school and everyone's just kind of hoping nothing else bad happens at this point.

HOWELL: Government officials certainly have been telling people to move to higher ground, seek safer shelter.

Do you get a sense people are doing that?

Are they going to shelters or are they staying put?

PORTER: Oh, absolutely, knowing the Japanese, the second they start getting messages, they start to move out. So if you're nearby like a local elementary school or a community center, they are set up to prepare for people to come in and stay there for the night.

HOWELL: Chad Porter, really rounding out our reporting, giving us perspective of what's happening in Kyoto, Japan. You see some images there in Japan of what people are dealing with. Thank you for the insight and we certainly hope the very best for you and your family.

PORTER: Thank you very much.

HOWELL: Here in the United States, wildfires are spreading fast across the western part of this nation. One person was killed in a fire near California's border with Oregon. The fires have consumed dozens of homes. They have forced thousands of people to evacuate and to leave their homes.

In the county of Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara County officials declared a state of emergency. High record temperatures are fueling the fires, as Southern California is facing a heat wave there. The temperatures in some places have reached 100 degrees, 47 degrees Celsius.

World Cup action to talk about. And then there were four. The semifinals are set. Next, how England and Croatia secured their place in the next round. Stay with us.

(MUSIC PLAYING)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[05:50:00]

(MUSIC PLAYING)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL (voice-over): A couple of friends there inside Zagreb, Croatia, I bet they're in that crowd. They are excited. Croatia now advancing to the World Cup semifinals. Croatia defeated host Russia in penalties. It is the second time ever that Croatia joins the final four at the World Cup.

Also a look at the scene there in London, celebrations in England. England set to face Croatia on Wednesday. This is the first time England has made it to the semifinal since 1990, this after defeating Sweden 2-0. It is making fans dream that England could win its second World Cup. Well, we'll see.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: It was a thrilling day with the last two games of the quarterfinals. CNN's "WORLD SPORT's" Vince Cellini tells us how England and Croatia secured their chance to fight on for the World Cup.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

VINCE CELLINI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The World Cup semifinals are all set with England and Croatia booking their spot on Saturday. For Croatia, they had to get through host Russia, who had been the underdog story of the tournament. And what a thrilling game this was.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CELLINI (voice-over): After battling into extra time, it won.

[05:55:00]

CELLINI: A ball sent into the box and Domagoj Vida, with a header that screamed by players, the goalie, Igor Akinfeev, was helpless. It finds the net and when it all seemed lost for Russia, this happened, on a set piece in the 115th minute.

Mario Fernandes, off the side of his head into the net, the place goes crazy, it's tied at two. So we go to penalties. And that man again, Fernandes of Russia, taking the third penalty kick, a crucial miss.

Ivan Rakitic, then, with a chance to win it for Croatia and he ends the amazing run of the host, 4-3 on penalties, second semi ever for Croatia.

In the other match, 1966 winners England have booked their place in their first semifinal since 1990. England surrendered nothing, blanking the Swedes and making memories for a new generation of their fans.

After a goalless first half-hour, the deadlock eventually broken by England's Harry Maguire, first international goal for him and the Three Lions' fourth goal from a corner at this World Cup and eighth from a set piece.

And it got even better for the English. In the second half, Dele Alli, with the second tally just shy of the hour. Their goalkeeper, Jordan Pickford was a wall, as England is a winner 2-0.

So here's a look at the draw. First there were 32, now there are four. The 1998 winners, France, taking on Belgium Tuesday in St. Petersburg and then England in their third World Cup semifinal. They are set to meet Croatia on Wednesday.

That is your World Cup update. I'm Vince Cellini.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOWELL: And that wraps this hour of CNN NEWSROOM, I'm George Howell at the CNN Center in Atlanta. Our breaking news coverage of the high- risk rescue in Thailand. You're watching CNN, thank you for being with us.